Code of Ethics

Foreword

The Medical Council of Malawi is pleased to issue this revised edition of the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, which shall be observed, mutatis mutandis, by all medical practitioners, dentists, paramedicals and allied health professionals practicing in Malawi. The first edition was published in 1990. The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is promulgated by the Council in fulfillment of its functions as outlined in, and in the  exercise of the powers vested in the Council by, Part IV, (Sections 10, 11, and 12) of the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act, Chapter 36:01 of the Laws of Malawi

This booklet cannot possibly be comprehensive as it is impossible to cover in a single volume all aspects of ethics and professional conduct which health professionals registrable by the Council are expected to abide by. The Council, therefore, advises practitioners when in doubt about ethical aspects of professional problems confronting them to base their decisions on their own consciences or to seek the advice of senior or more experienced colleagues, the Medical Association of Malawi, or the Council itself which may be contacted through its Registrar at P.O. Box 30787, Lilongwe 3. The Council, whose decision is final, will determine the appropriate conduct to have been followed in cases involving areas not specifically covered in this booklet

This booklet is divided into six sections. The first section covers general issues relating to practitioner’s duties and obligations to the public. The second section deals with issues of practitioners’ relationship with colleagues and professional associations. The third section covers matters in relation to practitioners in private practice. Particular attention of the concerned persons is drawn to Section 3.2 which is on “informing the public about practices”. In keeping with the current trends, the Council feels that it is in the public interest for practitioners to make public announcements relating to their practices, such as change of premises, or clinic hours. To avoid possible abuse of this opportunity, drafts of such announcements should be submitted to the Council for clearance before they are circulated to the public.

The forth section discusses advertising at length as this is an important area in medical ethics and professional conduct. The fifth section outlines types of actions which may constitute professional misconduct and may result in disciplinary action being taken by Council.The sixth section deals withmiscellaneous matters such as issues of medical reports, practitioners’ connections with commercial enterprises and professional fees.

Practitioners may express their views, to the Council onany matters covered in this booklet for further consideration

INTERPRETATION

In this code, unless the contrary intention appears:

  1. Immediate dependants mean spouse, children and parents
  2. Advertising includes all those methods by which a practitioner is made known to the public either by himself or by others without his  objection, in a manner which can be fairly regarded as having for its purpose the obtaining of patients or the promotion in other ways of the practitioner’s individual professional advantage
  3. Certification” includes any act whether concerned with medical 
    certificates or documents, which must statutorily be signed by a medical practitioner, or other person so authorized
  4. A practitioner means a medical practitioner, a dentist, a paramedical or  a person in the allied health profession
  5. Council means the Medical Council of Malawi established under the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act, Chapter 36:01 of the Laws of Malawi
  6. Medical Research is a research that has its focus  on health related issues/problems with a view to identify solutions or new trends in  managing health problems.

Section 1

GENERAL DUTIES OF THE PRACTITIONERS TO THE PUBLIC

Every practitioner shall:

  1. Respect all aspects of human life, and shall do all that can reasonably be done to safeguard and improve the quality of human life, and shall not do anything which may cause suffering or terminate life
  2. Give such advice and treatment as is necessary to reduce the suffering of patients
  3. Treat patients or any persons accompanying or visiting a patient with due courtesy and respect for their inherent dignity.
  4. Respect patients’ confidentiality, and shall keep secret all that the practitioner may learn in confidence from his patients or anyone acting on behalf of a patient in the course of the patient/practitioner relationship Provided that a Practitioner may, however, be required to reveal confidential information on patients in courts of law where the judicial ruling  will prevail.
  5. Not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth status,  or any other status (to borrow from wording in the constitution)
  6. At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
  • I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude  which is their due
  • I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity
  • The health of the community  and of my patients will be my first consideration
  • I will respect the secrets which are confided in me, even after the patient has died
  • I will maintain by all means in my power  the honour and the noble  traditions of the medical profession
  • I will not permit consideration of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient
  • I will remain the utmost respect for human life, even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.
  • I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour

SECTION 2

PRACTITIONERS RELATIONSHIP WITH COLLEAGUES AND PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS 

2.1       Sharing of Knowledge and Skills with Colleagues

Practitioners shallshare developments in the medical field with their colleagues, and  do all they can to promote medical knowledge, education and research.  They shall, however, avoid any action, which may be regarded as self-praise, and shall not condemn their colleagues or use derogatory language about them.

2.2       Charging of Fees to another Practitioner

In view of the bond of fellowship that exists amongst all members of the profession, no matter where they qualify or practise, it is advisable not to charge fees directly for attending to another practitioner or his immediate dependants. This practice should be extended to nurses. There may be some exceptions to the uniform implementation of this advice.  The Council expects practitioners to exercise discretion in this matter.

2.3       Requesting Advice from another Practitioner

A practitioner may formally request, with the patient’s or patient’s guardians consent, whenever possible, the opinion and advice of another medical practitioner or dentist who may or may not be a specialist.  Such consultation should end when all the necessary visits are made, and a written report of the consultant’s opinion is made to the referring practitioner to whom the patient is returned for on-going care.